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By:J.L. Drake

Chapter One


I close the door behind Keith, lock the two deadbolts, chain, and latch, and breathe a sigh of relief. Keith installed them all the night I arrived, while I pretended to act like I was fine without them. Not true. He spoke with the man at the front desk about keeping an eye on me, and also put sensors on all my windows…I live on the fifth floor.

After I grab a quick bite to eat, I head over to the mirror, checking my outfit and smoothing my hands over my hair. I can do this. I pick up my keys after a little mental pep talk and head out, pushing myself to move forward. The painfully slow elevator calls me, but I opt for the stairs instead. It’s been a week since I left the safe house and moved here, a week since I’ve seen Cole. Keith keeps finding odd jobs around my one-bedroom apartment that he can only do during the night, since he has to work through the day. I know he’s nervous to leave me alone, and frankly, I like having him on my couch. Of course I keep telling him to leave and stop babying me, but that’s just another lie I add to the already long list.

Secretly, I’m worried my friends back at the safe house are growing tired of me, so I’m trying to act as independent as possible. That why I’m walking three blocks to Zack’s restaurant, knowing that Keith is sitting in the coffee shop across the street, watching me to make sure I get there all right. I smile to myself and pull out my sunglasses. Who knew scary old Keith would end up being a protective older brother?

I grin, thinking about the other day.

My apartment is quiet, something I don’t enjoy anymore. Melanie is out with friends and wanted me to join them, but all I want to do is watch old reruns of Lie to Me. Maybe I’ll learn something. Resting my glass of wine on my leg, I pull the covers over me more. It’s cold, and I’m too stubborn to turn up the heat. I don’t want my electric bill to be too much. Daniel is trying to pay my bills, but I’m determined not to have that happen. I’ll be making enough when I start my new job in a few days. I don’t need much.

I’m not sure what time it is when a light knocking wakes me. Oh, wow, I must have dozed off. I pull my lazy ass off the couch and trudge to the door, looking through the peephole to find Keith staring back at me.

After I unlock all five locks, I open the door. He is holding a plastic bag.

“I got you a fish.”


He holds up the bag, showing me a purple rainbow fish staring back at me through the plastic.



I hate fish.

He smiles, seeing my discomfort. “’Cause you’re lonely and could use someone you can’t push away.” He steps past me, but turns when I go to close the door. “Wait.”

“I don’t push people away.” I fold my arms as I look down the hallway and wonder who else is coming.

“Right.” He chuckles as he runs water into a glass bowl he took from another bag. “You’d be surprised how attached you can become to Aloof, here.”

I shake my head. “Aloof?”

He nods as he slips the fish into its new home. “Seems suitable for how you’ve been lately.”

I close my eyes, feeling his words hit me like a blow to the gut. “I’m sorry, Keith. I’m not trying to push anyone anyway. Especially not you. I-I…don’t know what I am.”

He sits the bowl on my counter, rubbing his finger along the glass and getting the fish’s attention.

“I know things have been rough lately. Just don’t shut us all out.” I nod miserably. The cookies are on top of the fridge. I reach up and grab them and sit them in front of him.


“I was never mad at you. I just miss the old Savannah sometimes.” He takes my hand and drags me into a side hug, while he snags two cookies at once. “Do you need anything?”

I shrug, knowing he needs this. “Actually, the tap in the bathroom has been dripping.”

His face lights up. “I’ll go get my tools.”

“Wait, Keith, who is comin—”

“Why does your elevator take nine years to get to the fifth floor?” June jokes, setting a large box on my kitchen table. I nearly jump into her arms. I’m so thankful to see family here in my own place.

June nods at Abigail, who is holding a bag full of homemade food.

“Thought you might like something different to eat.” She opens my fridge and sees my jar of peanut butter and bottled water. “Well, I thought you might be hungry.”

“Thanks!” I peer over her shoulder and see a container of her lentil soup. Yum.

June pours herself a glass of wine, then wanders over to the couch and retrieves mine from the side table. “This is a lovely place, dear.”